catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 7 :: 2003.03.28 — 2003.04.10


One movie at a time

Editor's Note: The following responses to several questions were
sent in by Zena Dell Schroeder, a faculty member with Act One. Act One
is a program sponsored by Hollywood Presbyterian Church that strives to
equip gifted Christians to become successful screenwriters in the
mainstream film industry.

Drawing from your own experience, what role does Act One or
Hollywood Presbyterian Church play in preparing Christians for work in
the film industry?

Act One trains scriptwriters from the Christian community for
mainstream entertainment careers by focusing on four vital areas:
artistry, professionalism, substance, and personal prayer. Our program
not only gives writers the practical tools that they will need to
succeed in this business, but it also provides spiritual formation so
that the Christian artist does not lose his or her way. By helping
writers to become excellent at their craft, by helping them to become
connected with working writers and producers in the entertainment
industry, and by helping them see Hollywood as a mission field, Act One
students are being prepared for work in the film industry.

How do you apply biblical principles to the work you are doing or hope to do in film?

We follow the example of Jesus, who was in the world, but not of the
world, who hung out with sinners and told parables, stories, so that
they might find Him.

Act One is dedicated to training writers from the Christian
community for mainstream Hollywood careers. This inevitably raises
questions. Why mainstream Hollywood? Why not write "Christian films"?
But what is a Christian film? When Jesus told parables, they rarely
mentioned God. Yet when Christians write mainstream movies "without
direct mention of God," we seem to ruffle some feathers. Is it moral?
Don't we have to compromise? Isn't selling out a given?

These questions have one thing in common—they speak to our ethics
as Christians in the entertainment industry. Act One addresses these
questions, and gives a better understanding of what it means to be a
Christian screenwriter—or even a writer—and standards by which we
should and can measure our work.

What is a Christian screenwriter or writer? Well, what is a
Christian baseball player? Someone who plays baseball for a living, who
happens to be Christian. But as such, there are some things that should
set him apart from others. What are these things? Their behavior,
motivation and focus.

A Christian baseball player behaves differently both on and off the
field. In his regular life, a truly committed Christian is always
endeavoring to become more Christ-like. Integrity, honesty, humility,
respect—these are a few of his traits. On the field, he also behaves
differently. He doesn't curse other players, or pick fights, or
exercise bravado. He doesn't do the victory strut when he nails a home
run. His behavior is markedly different. He also doesn't object to the
rules on moral grounds. "I don't think it's right to send a player to
the bench after he strikes out, so I'm not going to do it." No. He
follows the rules. He plays the game. But he plays the game
differently. The same is true for the Christian screenwriter.

He plays baseball because he?s good at it. He recognizes the gifts
God's given him, and he endeavors to glorify God with these gifts—in
combination with his behavior.

He doesn't play baseball to save people. That is not his goal. His goal
is to play the game to the best of his ability, and to glorify God with
his life in the process. If anyone gets saved, it will not be because
of the home run he hits, but because of the behavior of the one who
hits it, and the relationships he has established with both the
community and
the other players. Indeed, his behavior will cause the self-reflection
necessary to lead others to Christ and cause them to thirst for living
waters. All of this is true of the Christian screenwriter. It's not
"what we do," but "how we do it" that makes us different. Act One
endeavors to provide a few guidelines for writers to follow, a few
differences that should exist between our work and that of our secular

What have been some blessings and/or challenges you've encountered as a Christian in Hollywood?

My greatest frustrations in the entertainment industry stem not from
the secular body of Hollywood with whom I must interact, but rather
from my Christian brothers and sisters. If they are not outright
condemning Hollywood for being evil, they are attempting to transform
it by launching second-rate, mediocre film projects, without ever
consulting actual Hollywood professionals. The amount of money that is
wasted on these mediocre projects that will never see the light of a
movie screen let alone bring people into a saving relationship with
Christ is embarrassing and shameful. These people would never dream of
building a house without first consulting an architect and hiring
experienced laborers and builders. How is producing a film without
professional Hollywood any different?

What is your hope for the future in terms of Christian
involvement in film? What still needs to be done by the church to
ensure a strong Christian presence in the making of excellent films?

My hope is that Christians will be major players in Hollywood in the
next five to ten years, not because they are writing "Christian"
movies, but because they are telling GREAT STORIES with EXCELLENCE. If
we can do those two things, we can truly change the world one movie at
a time.

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